It’s only round one but the Bunnies have sent an early message by defeating the reigning premiers 26-16. Adam Reynolds was the master and dictated play with his kicking game in awful conditions. Cody Walker got under the skin of the Roosters senior players and disrupted them. Braidon Burns won his battle while the forwards outmuscled their cross-town rivals. There is a lot to like about this Bunnies outfit, none more-so than Cam Murray though. An absolute weapon, this kid is set for a monster season.
What a performance. What a win! The Warriors absolutely played the Bulldogs off the park in extremely difficult circumstances. A quick shout out to the club for throwing the gates open in a show of unity. They deserved that crowd and that performance. How good was young Adam Keighran on debut? RTS picked up exactly where he left off in his Dally M medal-winning season. The Warriors’ big men up front laid a platform for their speedy outside backs to roll on. Blake Green was outstanding, as was young Roache. Amazing all around.
The new look Cowboys send an early message through two of their word class superstars. Jason Taumalolo ran for over 300 metres and destroyed literally everyone in his path. I was shocked when he moved wide but Paul Green was spot on the mark. Michael Morgan showed that life after JT will be just fine. He dictated play and ultimately took the game by the collar when it was there to be won. Another game played in difficult circumstances. The Cowboys big men aren’t going to lose many battles this season. They certainly won this one.
4. Wests Tigers
I know the response to this will be “they only beat the Sea Eagles..” and although true, the Tigers were just about as dominant as any side this weekend. A bombed try aside their line was never really tested. They were strong in defence, dominant in the middle and took their opportunities. Robbie Farah turned back the clock with two tries at the club’s spiritual home. Matterson looks like a brilliant pick up. Big win considering they lost Mbye late.
All the questions were around how the Storm would cope without their superstar fullback. Turns out they have another superstar fullback to slip seamlessly in. Jahrome Hughes had an absolute blinder. Cam Munster may be the game’s next mega star. He was again brilliant. The Storm won the middle battle against a hugely talked up Broncos pack and their spine did the rest. We expect no less from the purple juggernaut. Cam Smith looks 25. I don’t know how he does it.
The Eels got the chocolates against their local rivals on a terrible Sunday afternoon in horror conditions. Michael Jennings scored a double capping off a headline-making game that also saw him sin-binned for a high shot. The Eels youngsters in Brown and Mahoney played well beyond their years. Tim Mannah was huge off the bench after Nathan Brown went down injured. Gutherson looked good while Moses was in everything. Ferguson provided a huge boost to the club in his Eels debut.
The Raiders begin the season with two competition points, something we should have been able to say last season if not for a late fade out. The Green machine forward pack look FAR better this season at the back end. They finished the game with the same intensity as they started it. When’s the last time you could say that about Canberra? Wighton looked good in the halves. Leilua scored a great try after almost butchering the opportunity. Cotric is a weapon out wide. Perhaps we’ve underrated this Raiders side?
The Knights are off to the start they wanted and the result their performance warranted. It’s hard to believe they weren’t 16-20 up following their first-half dominance but ultimately an Edrick Lee intercept delivered two valuable competition points. Lee was the best on ground after hammering Josh Dugan at will. David Klemmer was immense and looks a real pack leader. Pearce controlled the game well in a difficult wind. A gritty, tough win against a 2018 top four side, good start.
The premiers won’t be too worried but they’ll be angry at dropping points to their closest rivals. The result, in round one, won’t raise any alarm bells but the fact that the Bunnies were able to upset so many of the Roosters stars will have Trent Robinson at the whiteboard. I have no idea why Crichton rode the bench for so many minutes, perhaps he’s fighting injury? Tedesco was kept quiet while the Roosters star halves were barely sighted. The tri-colours lost in round one last year too and well, they were ok.
The Broncos will be upset they lost the battle in the middle but they showed enough to not be too worried otherwise. I don’t like Gillett in the middle, surely that changes. Roberts going off injured was a shame. Jack Bird had an indifferent night but will be better for the hit out. Pangai Junior looked good from the bench, surely he starts at 13 this week. The Broncos halves couldn’t produce behind a beaten pack. Oates is a monster out wide.
The Dragons would have been happy to be out on the field after that off-season but they won’t be happy with their round one performance. I absolutely hate the five into four set up they’re running with and social media seemed to agree. Their big men simply couldn’t handle Jason Taumalolo. Many other sides will suffer the same fate but the Dragons looked soft in the middle. Widdop at fullback won’t last. He needs to be in the halves.
The Panthers would have expected far better in round one but ultimately dropped two points at home to their rivals the Eels. Their two tries came against twelve men. You could argue they were lucky to have the one-man advantage. The Panthers’ back three were dire and won’t play that badly again this season. Up front, the Panthers didn’t get the roll on many, myself included, expected. Maloney was in penalty mode. Not much to write home about here.
The new look Sharks played a lot like their 2018 selves, full of dropped ball and penalties. Newcastle kept Shaun Johnson quiet while the Sharks big men lost the battle. Gallen went backwards while Woods and Prior made little impact. Nikora was good on debut. Matt Moylan looked dangerous every time he touched the ball although he should never field a kick-off. Josh Dugan had a nightmare. Chad Townsend created a four on two yet found Edrick Lee on the chest.
14. Sea Eagles
Manly can’t welcome back Tommy Turbo quickly enough after an awful performance against the Tigers. Brendon Elliot blew an absolute sitter and from there the Eagles never really threatened. DCE played a lone hand but didn’t have his best game. Manly’s forwards were solid but their backline didn’t go with them. I don’t want to sink the boot too much too early but Manly need a break out star or this will be a long season.
The Titans failed to trouble the scorers in round one in horror conditions. They lost Ash Taylor the day before the game and lost Tyrone Roberts early on. Their star forward pack didn’t stand up against a very good Raiders pack while Brimson struggled as the main playmaker. It’s tough to rate a side who lost both halves but the Titans didn’t offer much at home. Michael Gordon will play better games this year.
Saturday afternoon was everything that Dogs fans had worried about. Their forwards were dominated, their outside backs were spectators and their halves were awful. Lewis won’t play that badly again. Foran looked fit but looks a step behind. Hard to be too critical after their forwards were smashed up front. There weren’t a lot of positives to come out of this game.